September 28, 2015 — HONOLULU – “This harbor is the most widely used on the island,” said Capt. Troy Davidson, the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment commander. “If the harbor were shut down, the island wouldn’t be able to support the population more than several days.”
Since January 2015 the Judy K, a 77-foot fishing boat, has sat at the bottom of Honolulu Harbor with only a portion of the top visible above the surface.
“Having the boat stuck here blocks the use of this dock, which impacts the harbor as a whole,” Davidson said.
Army divers from the 7th Eng. Dive Det., 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, have been attempting to raise the Judy K since Sept. 8 as part of a salvage exercise.
Working in support of the Hawaii Department of Transportation-Harbors Division, the Soldiers first visited and assessed the sunken vessel in June and concluded that the vessel was salvageable.
During the SALVEX, the divers began by washing sediment out from under the boat in order to lay slings under it, which are connected to bags that, when filled with air, will ideally raise the boat from underwater and back onto the surface.
Davidson said it hasn’t been an easy mission, but the divers demonstrated their agility and ability to adapt.
The heavy rains and flooding on the island have washed large amounts of sediment into the harbor, limiting visibility.
“We hit some speed bumps along the way with bottom conditions, depth, Mother Nature,” said Staff Sgt. David Craig, the detachment’s diving supervisor. “But overall it went pretty much according to plan.”
After the boat was fully surfaced, the divers started making repairs to the boat.
“Right now we’re verifying that the boat is watertight,” Craig said. “Now we dewatered it fully. We’ll go ahead and maintain the pumps in place for a period of time and monitor the amount of water that comes back into the vessel or doesn’t come back into it.”
The Soldiers also used this mission as an opportunity to train in salvage exercises.
“This is a massive training evolution for us,” Craig said. “It’s a task that we as Army divers don’t get to do as often as we would like.”
“I’m very pleased with the way it turned out,” said Pfc. Thomas Behar, a diver on the mission. “I had a lot of fun with it. It was a great learning experience.”
Now that the vessel has been raised off the bottom of the harbor, the divers will ensure the boat is able to stay afloat before handing it off to the State of Hawaii to be properly disposed of.
By Sgt. Jon Heinrich